Week Three: Embrace the Shadows

So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

flower-193588_1920Our society focus too much in “positive thinking” and the “light”, making us feel guilty or inappropriate when we feel pain, frustration, anger or any so called “negative” emotion.

We are supposed to “man up” and “cheer up” even when depression is more widespread than ever and people are either on antidepressants or self-medicate for all types of pain and discomfort.

Discomfort is almost a taboo, we are supposed to be happy and hype all the time even when the world may be falling apart inside or around us. “Ignore the consequences of your acts” is the message: “consume to feel happier, get into debt and wish it is not there, follow the expected path and you’ll be happy” (but you are not); but the soul knows better and we feel the hurt inside.

Sometimes it comes from the inside: “you don’t value, you are a failure, you are not enough, you don’t belong, you are not loved”. Feelings of being inadequate make us do all types of things, including getting into abusive or neglectful relationships, boring jobs, wrong careers…

The shadows are not “bad” as we have been taught. They are part of us. There is rain and there is sun, there is cold and there is warmth, “no matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow”. Shadows are made of the emotions and parts of us we deny and there are both individual and cultural shadows we carry, always trying to deny them as if they would disappear just by wishing so.

Embracing the shadow is not an easy task, but a good life coach can help. You can try by journaling what strong emotions bother you and exploring the beliefs, triggers and patterns behind.

You can try by accepting these feelings without dwelling in them and asking what they have to teach you about you, your culture and those around you.

The internal messages that sabotage your dreams and prevent you from taking a risk and doing what you feel is important in your life, they come from your shadows: they may stop you but they are also protecting you. Explore what’s behind, where exactly they come from and how founded they are (or not).

Shadow work is one of the most powerful things we can do in life coaching. In week four I’ll post a few exercises that may help.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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